The Oklahoman

Artist Harvey Pratt earns honors for National Native American Veterans Memorial

- Brandy McDonnell

Almost a year since he saw his “Warrior's Circle of Honor” design become reality as the National Native American Veterans Memorial, Harvey Pratt's life has stayed full.

"Since I won that competitio­n, now I sit on the committee to pick the winning art for the Cold War Memorial in Wisconsin ... and then I just got invited to sit on the arts and cultural program for the 250th anniversar­y of America," he said.

"It's just a good thing I retired so I could be so busy," he added with a chuckle.

Recently profiled by PBS for its new multiplatf­orm series "American Veteran," the internatio­nally known Cheyenne and Arapaho artist also will receive three major honors from his home state this fall.

A Cheyenne peace chief, Pratt will be the grand marshal of the Red Earth Parade Oct. 16 in downtown Oklahoma City. The Guthrie-based artist will receive the Special Recognitio­n Award Nov. 9 at the 44th Oklahoma Governor's Arts Awards at the state Capitol. The Vietnam veteran then will be ushered into the Oklahoma Hall of Fameduring a ceremony Nov. 18 at the Cox Business Convention Center in Tulsa.

"There's just been so damn many of them ... it's kind of overwhelmi­ng sometimes," he said of his recent accolades. "I didn't expect all this."

Fulfilling its purpose

On Nov. 11, 2020 — Veterans Day — the Smithsonia­n Institutio­n's National Museum of the American Indian marked the official opening of the Na

tional Native American Veterans Memorial on its grounds in Washington, D.C.

Although the dedication ceremony and veterans' procession originally planned for the opening have been postponed to Nov. 11, 2022, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Pratt and his wife Gina quietly made the trip to Washington, D.C., last fall for the memorial's debut.

"We just wanted to see what people were going to do, how they acted, what was their reaction. ... And nobody knew who we were," Pratt said. "Well, people came. They sang songs, they tied prayer cloths in it. ... About three or four different groups came in and did ceremonies on that one day — and that's exactly what I wanted it to do.

"I wanted people to come there and recognize their veterans from the past, the present and the future and do the ceremonies that Indians do. I was just really happy with what was going on while we were sitting there."

Congress originally commission­ed a national memorial for Native American veterans in 1994, a decade before the National Museum of the American Indian opened. In 2014, museum curators began conceptual­izing the project — the first national landmark in Washington, D.C., to focus on the contributi­ons of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians who have served in the military — and in 2017, the museum launched an internatio­nal design competitio­n that drew 413 entries from five continents.

In 2018, the submission­s were narrowed to five finalists, including Pratt and the Oklahoma-based team of American Indian artists Daniel SaSuWeh Jones (Ponca) and Enoch Kelly Haney (Seminole). Pratt's “Warrior's Circle of Honor” was selected as the winning design, and work began on bringing the long-awaited memorial to the National Mall.

"Harvey was already extremely highly regarded as an artist when his design for the National Native American Veterans Memorial was chosen as the design that would pay tribute to Native people who have so honorably and selflessly served this country," said Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples in an email. "Our state will forever be connected to the memorial, thanks to Harvey's visionary work."

Honoring his service

An internatio­nally known painter, sculptor and forensic artist, Pratt retired in 2017 as the forensic artist for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigat­ion after a more than 50-year career in law enforcemen­t.

Encouraged by a fellow Cheyenne and Arapaho veteran to enter the design contest, he said working on the National Native American Veterans Memorial has kept him busy since his "Warrior's Circle of Honor" concept was named the winner.

"We had to go before so many boards ... and make presentati­ons before they could approve it. I think there were 30some approval agencies before we could actually get started on the groundbrea­king," Pratt recalled.

"The Smithsonia­n told me that it is the only memorial that has ever finished on time."

With his focus on seeing the memorial completed by the planned fall 2020 date, Pratt said he didn't realize the cavalcade of honors and opportunit­ies that would come next.

"The American Legion wrote me up in their magazine and gave me an award. ... The Marine Corps came out and spent three days with me, and they did a nice article in the Leathernec­k magazine. The VA wants to write an article for their VA paper ... and now PBS," said Pratt, who served in the Marines from 1962-65.

A 2019 Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame inductee, Pratt talked about the significance of the pebble he took with him to Vietnam in “American Veteran: Keep It Close," a 10-part PBS digital video series. It is part of the Public Broadcasti­ng Service's "American Veteran" initiative that traces the veteran experience through a four-episode PBS series, the collection of 10 digital short films and a nine-part podcast. Fellow Oklahoman, Native American and Vietnam veteran Wes Studi is hosting one of the broadcast episodes.

Garnering home-state accolades

A self-taught artist, Pratt works in oil, acrylic, watercolor, metal, clay and wood. In his home state, he has frequently shown his work at the long-running Red Earth Festival, an intertriba­l celebratio­n of Native American visual art, dance and culture.

"Harvey has deep roots with the Red Earth family — he has been a participat­ing artist in the Red Earth Festival since 1987 and was selected Honored One in 2005," said Vickie Norick, chairman of the Red Earth Board of Directors, in an email. “As a member of the Red Earth board of directors and through his involvemen­t in the Youth Art Competitio­n, Harvey has played a vital role in encouragin­g our young Native artists.”

Although the Red Earth Festival moved in 2020 to the Grand Event Center at the Grand Casino Hotel & Resort in Shawnee, the Red Earth Board of Directors opted to keep the beloved Red Earth Parade in downtown Oklahoma City while shifting it to autumn to go along with a new event to mark Indigenous Peoples Day.

Despite some delays due to the pandemic, the inaugural Red Earth FallFest is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Myriad Botanical Gardens. With Pratt as the grand marshal, the 35th Red Earth Parade will begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 16 at NW 6 Street and Walker Avenue and travel south on Walker, ending near the festival site.

"I'm excited about it coming back. I think it always was a pretty cool thing, to see all those Native people together," Pratt said. "I enjoyed riding the float with the Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs, and it would just give me a chance to visit with them. ... But this is the star ride."

Although he participat­ed in every Red Earth Festival from 1987 to 2019, Pratt said the combinatio­n of the pandemic and his commitment­s stemming from the National Native American Veterans Memorial have prevented him from joining the event the the past two years.

Still, Pratt said he hopes to inspire others, whether through his artwork or through his accolades.

"I am a composite of my ancestors and all the people who have been in my life. I am truly blessed by their gifts," Pratt said. "I hope those that follow me will see that they too can succeed, regardless of who they are or where they come from."

 ?? PROVIDED ?? A Guthrie-based Cheyenne and Arapaho artist, Harvey Pratt created the design for the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
PROVIDED A Guthrie-based Cheyenne and Arapaho artist, Harvey Pratt created the design for the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States